Attracting Birds to Your Yard
Add some bird-friendly landscaping to jazz up your neighborhood with flashy colors, creative melodies and hours of viewing entertainment.
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By Kay Bell
Courtesy of bankrate.com.
Attracting birds to your property is not hard and it doesn't have to be expensive. In fact, your efforts could more than pay for themselves when it comes time to sell. Vicki Bendure, a spokeswoman for the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, says that adding bird-friendly plants to a property is an easy way to increase its value. Trees are a particularly great addition, says Bendure, sometimes producing a 20 percent return on the investment.
But to get the best bird traffic, you have to do a little plant planning.
When deciding what flora to add to your yard, start with fauna. Find out what birds frequent your region and in what seasons. This will determine your choice of plants.
Once you've got an idea of your area's birds, pick the plants that they (and you) like and that fit into your natural topography. Ideally, you want something that doesn't take a lot of pampering. It's less work for you and keeps you out of the birds' territory. Both ornithological and landscaping pros agree: indigenous plants are the best bet.
"Native plant species are what the birds and other wildlife are adapted to," says Scott W. Gillihan, forested ecosystems program coordinator at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Brighton, Colo. "It's what they like so it's better at attracting them."
Not only are the area's birds already living in the naturally occurring vegetation, it generally is more resistant to the region's insects and weather.
You'll want a variety of native plants to provide food and cover year round. "The more diversity you have in plants the more diversity you'll have in birds and generally people want to see a lot of different birds," notes Gillihan, author of Bird Conservation on Golf Courses: A Design and Management Manual.
Landscape professional Mary Beth Riddle agrees. "Have a diverse selection of fruiting and flowering trees and shrubs," says the horticulturist and garden manager of Lambert's Landscape Company in Dallas. "An assortment makes the birds feel comfortable and provides constant food sources. Include woody trees, shrubs and perennial and annual flowers for the nectar."
Gillihan recommends planting in clusters. "It looks nicer and birds like it better," he says. "For example, cluster plants back along your property line and encourage your neighbor on the other side to do the same. It creates a wider bird zone."
Don't forget water. The offering can be as simple as a plain stone birdbath or as elaborate as a small pool or stream running through your property. Just make sure it's available year round. Water is as important in the dead of winter when natural sources freeze as it is in the mid-summer heat.
Be prepared for predators when you invite birds into your backyard. They are an unavoidable component of the natural cycle and the most troublesome of the few drawbacks that come with a bird-friendly landscape.
In residential neighborhoods, cats (both your neighbor's roaming tabby as well as feral felines) are the biggest problem. Depending on how suburban or exurban your home is, you also could have raccoons stealing eggs from temporarily untended nests, as well as foxes, snakes and birds of prey (from kestrels to hawks to owls) looking for their next meal.
Then there are housing issues -- yours, not the birds.
Woodpeckers, for example, are gorgeous to look at and wonderful at eating away at the insects in your trees. But sometimes they forsake those for your siding. The noise, not to mention the damage their sturdy bills can cause, make some homeowners wish they had never extended an invitation to feathered friends. And many a songbird has met an untimely end flying into a home's picture window, so be careful about what plants you place in that area.
And don't forget about your human neighbors. They may not be as bird-crazy as you. Don't put a bird-luring plant next to the property line that runs along your neighbor's driveway. He might not like what the birds leave on his auto.
For the most part, however, landscaping for birds is a win-win for everyone. Birds flourish and homeowners get insight into a new environment.
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